Captain America (1) #144-148 "The Fifth Sleeper" (1972)
Writer: Gary Friedrich
Penciler: John Romita(#144) ,
Gil Kane (#145), Sal Buschema (#146-148)
Inker: John Romita, (#144-145) John Vorpoteen (#146-148)
Letterer: Artie Simek

A new Hydra is rising in Las Vegas and the first mission for the new S.H.I.E.L.D. all-female elite Femme Force is to take on the new group. Teamed with Captain America, Sharon Carter and the Contessa and the rest of the Femme Force are nearly destroyed in the sky by a brutal hijacking by Hydra. Carter is left seriously injured and later kidnapped by Hydra to lure Captain America to their base. Together with the new Femme Force, Captain America battles Hydra and their new mysterious leader.

  • Continuity Notes
  • Appearance by Dum Dum, Sharon Carter, the Contessa and the first for Eric Koeing as an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.
  • Sharon Carter is the head of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s new Femme Force. Val is her second in command.
  • Fury lobbies President Nixon for funding for S.H.I.E.L.D.
  • The Red Skull states that Hydra was nothing more then a diversion from his own real plans. Later stories would expand on the Red Skull's involvement in building Hydra.
  • Reprinted in Essential Captain America 3

Now this is a story. Twist after twist reveals villain after villain, until you're left with Captain America and some unlikely allies battling the Red Skull and yet another Sleeper. This plus the debut of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s Femme Force (Friedrich's nod to women's lib) and Contessa leading the way in battle. Val fans might be happy to see more of the character, but somewhat taken aback by the stereotypical 'cat fights' between her and Sharon Carter. In fact many of the characterizations are somewhat off-putting in how juvenile they come off. Regardless, there is plenty here for S.H.I.E.L.D. fans to enjoy, including the return of Hydra, and mock battle with Hydra LMDs kicking off the story arc. The issues aboard the plane to Vegas are rather good, with the surprise of former Howler Eric Koeing making the first of his spotty reunions with Nick Fury.

Little bits that bring a smile to the alert S.H.I.E.L.D. fan, Fury having to lobby Nixon for money for S.H.I.E.L.D. by staging a mock attack on Hydra. The demonstration of an LMD is certainly a treat. Curious to note Fury's remarks on Vietnam, in light of his earlier Howler mission, under the previous administration.